Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has written a third letter to Governor Lalji Tandon within 13 hours of sending a second, this time asking for the release of 16 MLAs the BJP has “held captive” so that they can decide which side they were on “independently”. In this second letter, Kamal Nath said, “You have assumed that my government has lost majority. From this, it appears that you have believed this on the basis of information received from BJP. The BJP has held 16 Congress MLAs hostage.”
“BJP leaders are putting pressure on these MLAs to get statements from them. Let the captive MLAs of the state be independent. Let them stay in the house for five-to-seven days without any pressure so that they can make their decisions with an independent mind. You have said that if you do not have a floor test by 17 March, it will be assumed that I do not actually have a majority, it is completely baseless and unconstitutional,” the chief minister wrote.
Kamal Nath said further, “I have always followed dignities in 40 years of my political life but am saddened by your letter of 16 March, in which you accused me of not following the norms. I had no such intention. Still, if you think so, I regret it.”
Kamal Nath then said in his letter that it seemed that on the basis of information from the BJP, Tandon had come to believe that his government had lost majority.
First letter from Kamal Nath: 16 March at 5 PM
The second letter from the chief minister follows one from the governor where he told Kamal Nath a letter from the latter was received in response to his letter written on 14 March. “Sorry, the expression or language of your letter is not compatible with parliamentary norms,” Tandon wrote.
The governor said he had asked Kamal Nath to get a vote of confidence on 16 March. “The session commenced on Monday, but the trust vote did not begin. The Supreme Court’s decision cited in the letter does not apply to the current circumstances. It is a pity that instead of proving majority in the time period given by me, you have written or expressed your inability to conduct a floor test in the assembly by writing a letter, which has no justification and basis,” the governor wrote.
“The reasons,” Tandon continued, “you have given for not conducting the floor test are baseless and meaningless. Respecting the constitutional and democratic beliefs, get a flyer test done in the assembly by 17 March and prove a majority. Otherwise, it would be assumed that you do not actually have a majority in the assembly.”
Second letter from Kamal Nath: 16 March at 10 PM
Accusing the governor of overruling the speaker of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, which was not in the jurisdiction of a governor, Kamal Nath said, “The majority will be tested only if the legislators are free from pressure. You have assumed in a letter to me on 14 March that my government has lost majority. From this, it appears that you believed this based on the information received from the BJP.”
“I have been expected to talk about the functioning of the legislative assembly whereas all this is the prerogative of the speaker. It is not within the jurisdiction of the governor to interfere in their work,” the chief minister asserted, continuing, “The legislative assembly does not work under the governor. Overall, the governor cannot act like the Lokpal of the legislative assembly.”
Kamal Nath wrote this third letter today at 11 AM — the content of which is mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this post above.
BJP presses for quick floor test again
Responding to the BJP’s petition in the Supreme Court, seeking a floor test, the highest court on Tuesday issued notice to the governor, chief minister and the speaker of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly seeking a reply within 24 hours. The case will be heard again on Wednesday at 10:30 AM.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kamal Nath discussed the legal issue with senior party leader Mukul Wasnik from Delhi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Govind Singh. At 11 AM, senior INC leaders, ministers and MLAs started reaching the chief minister’s house.
BJP leaders Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Gopal Bhargava and state president VD Sharma reached Raj Bhavan once again at around 4 PM. This is the second meeting of BJP leaders with the governor in the last 20 hours.
Earlier on Monday evening, BJP had paraded 106 MLAs in front of the Governor. Currently, all party MLAs are staying at a resort in Sehore. Earlier, BJP leader Narottam Mishra had said, “Congress MLAs themselves are saying that the Kamal Nath government has been confined to Chhindwara (chief minister’s hometown).”
“He has sacrificed his government on the altar or nepotism. A national president drowned the Congress for “putramoh” (soft corner for his son),” Mishra said.
Narayan Tripathi all set to join INC again
BJP MLA from Maihar Narayan Tripathi, who had made news last year by opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act, going against his party line — and then again betrayed where his loyalty lied yesterday — met Kamal Nath for the fourth time in three days. He said that there was no threat to the INC government.
“Congress has an absolute majority,” Tripathi said. He had met the chief minister on Monday, twice on Sunday and once before that on Saturday. He says that he stands “only with development”. “Right now, there is Kamal Nath government. We will see when there isn’t,” he had said yesterday.
Governor reminded CM of floor test twice
Governor Tandon wrote a letter to the government expressing displeasure over the floor test not being conducted on Monday. In this, he had said that if the floor test was not conducted on Tuesday, it would be assumed that the government was in a minority.
Late in the evening after the governor’s letter, Kamal Nath challenged the validity of his order in a sequence of events described above.
|Activities in CM House|
|12:55 PM: BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi meets Chief Minister Kamal Nath|
12:10 PM: Ministers Jayawardhan Singh, Ajay Singh and Sachin Yadav reach the chief minister’s residence too
11:10 AM: Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh arrives at the CM House
11:00 AM: Minister Vijay Laxmi Sadhau leaves Kamal Nath’s residence
10:37 AM: 4 INC MLAs in an SUV with tinted glass windows reached the CM House
9:30 AM: Around noon, empty SUV vehicles went inside the CM House
In the morning, Shobha Oza had met the chief minister already. From there, she went straight to the office to take charge as the chairperson of the Madhya Pradesh Women’s Commission.
Waiting for the Supreme Court verdict
The BJP is waiting for the Supreme Court’s judgment on its petition that pressed for a floor test in the state assembly. If the speaker disqualifies the rebel MLAs within the next 10 days, the matter may go to the high court or the Supreme Court.
If the court so decides, the floor test can be held before 26 March.
According to Faizan Mustafa, a constitutional affairs expert, the speaker has two options. He either accepts the resignations of the MLAs or disqualifies them.
The speaker can delay his decision so that the MLAs of the ruling party get some time to persuade the rebels. But the speaker has no choice other than two.
This is a possibility indeed. There are also precedents of this. Last year, president’s rule was imposed on Maharashtra in October-November, 19 days after the election results. Then Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari had invited three major parties of the state, the BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP to form the government, but no party could muster the required strength to form the government. After 12 days, President’s rule was lifted overnight and Devendra Fadnavis took the oath of chief minister.
Earlier in June 2018, when the BJP had withdrawn support to the Mehbooba Mufti government in Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP-National Conference tried to form a government together. However, in the meantime, a governor rule was imposed there.
Mustafa explains that if the government or the speaker does not deliberately conduct floor tests, the governor can recommend the dismissal of the government and impose president’s rule by giving the reason of political instability in the state.